Tag Archives: careers

The high price of female success

We all know that we can’t have it all but there often seems to be something in the female genes to suggest we might, if we simply worked a bit harder… and then a bit harder.

From personal experience it seems to me that women face more risks than men today when they set out for the top in their chosen industry.

One risk is that married women might put their career before their marriage and end up professionally successful but living alone. Which might be preferable for some of course…

Another is that women returning to work after maternity leave may feel the need to opt for part time roles so they can fit in their childcare and home responsibilities.

And I’m sure we all know or have read about women who delay starting a family until it’s too late and live to regret this. Of course some don’t regret this at all, but with women delaying their families until they’re financially better off in their 40s, it’s statistically much riskier to give birth then than in their 20s and 30s.

The final risk I see is that successful females end up being the success they crave but don’t recognise the person they have become to get there, as US singer-actress Fanny Brice explains so well…

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where will you be?”

Aren’t these career risks the same for men?

I don’t think men face the same career risks. Those I know who are ambitious, successful and keen to have a family seem to have rolled out their career carpet at an early stage and chosen a partner who supports their ambition, appreciates the lifestyle rewards and is willing to play second fiddle to her husband. Having thought long and hard about this, I honestly don’t know any men who took time out from their careers to be full time Dads (time off to help when the baby was born, yes) compared to the many Mums that do. And finally, very few men seem to suffer anything like the same feelings of guilt that women do, trying to juggle home, family and career responsibilities.

Many of these risks evidently exist for ambitious women in the motor industry whether they are at the top, getting close to the top or simply starting at the bottom. Despite it being generally agreed that more women are a good thing in the industry, few leading businesses seem to have diversity at the top of their strategic agenda and few female school leavers and/or graduates seem aware of the exciting career opportunities they could be enjoying in this male dominated industry.

How do women in the motor industry see this?

I am often intrigued when women at the top of male dominated industries say they haven’t encountered discrimination on the way up. They probably haven’t because they’ve had to be exceptionally talented to get there in the first place. But they’d have to be blind to see that this isn’t true for everyone, including women who perhaps aren’t quite as exceptional or dedicated. And mightn’t the sacrifices that these exceptional females have made be deterring other very talented women from following in their wake? There are still so many motor industry Companies without even one female Executive Board Director, as things stand.

The reason this matters is because women in influential and customer facing roles can be seen as role models for tomorrow’s leaders, in an industry that needs to be seen as a more female friendly place than it is today, to please the gender spender, the female shopper.

At present too many women see garages and car showrooms as places to avoid, where you need to take a man with you for support, or where you need to enter with guns blazing for fear of being patronised and/or ripped off.

Hear, hear Fanny Brice. Nobody can have it all in life, of course, and I’m only speaking for me but I’d like to see women being encouraged to be the women they are, not men in skirts (as it were).

Let’s celebrate the fact that men and women work best together (as in marriage) when it’s seen to be a partnership, not a battle of the sexes. That’s the success we should all want to work towards in business, with women playing an equal part alongside men. And if this requires changes to business culture and/or working hours to help women, in particular, through their family years, then so be it.


Do girls still expect to have it all?

Well done GirlGuiding UK. I have just read some excellent qualitative (ie opinion-based) research about girls’ attitudes to careers and how they might balance this with having a family.

Do they want to be superwomen and have it all or are they better informed about their career choices than we were in the 80s?

I am particularly interested here because young women are steadily achieving better GCSE grades and university results than young men. Industries that benefit from this female talent will be those that the girls choose over others.

Let’s hope this is a wake up call to the motor industry where, at present, only a tiny number of young women are considering a career.

Here are the findings that struck me as most accurate and telling.

Girls attitudes about education and female role models

56% of girls feel that they don’t get enough advice about choosing GCSEs and A levels
57% believe that women have to work much harder than men to succeed
60% are put off a career in engineering because of a lack of female role models

Whilst the likes of Victoria Beckham, Beyonce and Katie Price are quoted as role models, few could recall a female politician other than Margaret Thatcher. Few quoted any role models from male-dominated fields such as engineering, where girls’ professed lack of interest meant that they paid little attention.

Fortunately most girls realise that celebrity status isn’t necessarily real life for everyone and are looking more to their mothers as more relevant role models. This attitude does change as girls get older however; they start looking for external role models more and I can’t think of any big names they are likely to know of in the UK’s motor industry.

What industries are girls most interested in?

The girls in the research explained that they find it difficult to know what careers are available, beyond the obvious ones that attract the youngest, such as teacher, nurse, hairdresser, vet. As they get older, girls become aware that there is a huge variety of careers, but they know little about them and are unsure how to find out more.

Few showed any interest in traditionally ‘male’ careers such as engineering, construction or trades, arguing that this is not what girls like or are interested in. Some would be reluctant to draw attention to themselves by working in this type of field – making the existing gender bias self-perpetuating.

This last sentence is particularly telling and suggests that women don’t want to feel the odd one out in what they perceive to be a male dominated industry.

For the motor industry to figure in this list (and why shouldn’t it or want to be there) the industry needs to have a more female friendly image in the minds of girls, supported by leading businesses that reflect an agenda of diversity at Board level.

This is a tall order indeed if businesses (run by men like the one I spoke to earlier today) think that marketing services differently to women is pointless, regardless of the fact that females are the gender spenders and don’t expect to be treated like men. Could it be that there are businesses that prefer their industry the way it is, regardless of the female business case?

How do girls see combining a career and having children?

‘I want my career before I have children. I don’t want to be one of them [sic] women with eight kids in a flat.’

89% believe that having children would affect their career
69% would consider deferring having children to allow them to follow their perfect career
53% of girls would want to work part-time when their children are young
43% think that girls aspire to be hairdressers because ‘some jobs are more for girls’

These are probably areas that the motor industry could be addressing if it REALLY wants to encourage more women into it.

The most challenging question for me, raised at the end of this research, is how can an increasing range of truly talented females, not just in the motor industry, gain the exposure required for them to become role models for today’s girls and young women. So that their industries attract their fair share of the best young talent, regardless of gender.

FOXY is happy to support this debate on behalf of the UK motor industry in any way it can. We are keen to introduce the UK motor industry and the exciting careers in it to women. To do this we surely need to scotch the rumour (prevalent in so many female minds) that the motor industry is still a male bastion; it needs to be seen as a future career arena for women.

Without more women in the industry, how can we ever get customer service levels to the standards that women customers expect? Women who are the gender spenders remember…

If you would like to know more, why not join the debate on Twitter using #realrolemodels or visit www.girlguiding.org.uk/realrolemodels.